Newsflash II

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+++ The new AUDI S4 has been snapped testing out and about in Sweden as it edges towards it premiere, perhaps later this year or in early 2020. When compared to the previous version, the new model will benefit from updated headlights and taillights but at the front, will continue to feature large and aggressive air intakes. Additionally, the 2020 modelyear S4 will be sold with a bespoke set of sports wheels which will sit over a set of uprated brake discs and calipers. At the rear, the Audi gets 4 circular tailpipes and has a slightly more overt bumper than will be found in the regular facelifted A4. Interior alterations made to the facelifted S4 are expected to be minor but there will be a tweaked dashboard inspired by the latest Audi A6. This new dashboard will also be found across lesser A4 models and, of course, the range-topping Audi RS4 facelift. The current S4 is powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine with 354 hp and 500 Nm. While those figures are enough for most, my sources tell me that the facelifted S4 will feature a touch more grunt to ensure it more closely matches the 374 hp offered up by the BMW M340i and the Mercedes-AMG C 43 with its 390 hp. The tweaked model should sprint to 100 km/h in approximately 4.5 seconds as a result. +++

+++ The need for advanced safety features in automated and AUTONOMOUS cars will see vehicle software revenues more than quadruple to $1.2 trillion a year by 2030, the head of auto parts supplier Continental said. Ensuring an autonomous car can avoid an accident will require it to process signals from radar, camera and laser sensors, leading to a massive increase in demand for sophisticated software, Elmar Degenhart, chief executive of Continental, one of the world’s biggest auto parts’ suppliers, said. “Software competence is mission critical for successful car companies but the industry lacks scale in this competence”, Degenhart told. Vehicle software currently generates annual revenues of $280 billion a year, he said. The revenue growth potential and scarcity of software development skills at traditional car manufacturers makes technology companies outside the auto industry well placed to gain a foothold in the industry. “Car companies are good at validation and homologation and lack software development skills, while software companies have the opposite problem”, Degenhart said. “The IT industry has always valued speed of development more than perfecting the product, while the auto industry has tended to veer toward perfecting a product over rushing it out”. Their approaches would become more aligned as the 2 industries cooperate more, he said. “The software and the auto industry will have to work more closely together to develop autonomous vehicles and this will lead to a change in approach on both sides”. Separately Continental said it is sticking to plans to prepare for a potential listing its powertrain division on the stock market this year. +++ 

+++ Ford recently took the wraps off the new Kuga and it’s more car-like than ever before. This isn’t a coincidence as Ford’s global design director, Joel Piaskowski, told this was done on purpose. While you’re probably thinking it has something to do with consumer trends and preferences, Piaskowski suggested there were 2 primary considerations behind the move. First and foremost, Ford wanted to reposition the Kuga and make it more appealing to hatchback owners. This isn’t too surprising as the company is gutting its car lineup to focus on more profitable crossovers. The ‘softer’ Kuga also leaves room for Ford introduce the so-called BABY BRONCO . Piaskowski didn’t go into a lot of details, but he confirmed the upcoming model will be about the same size as the Kuga. This isn’t too surprising as both vehicles are expected to ride on the same platform. Given the commonality between the two models, it’s likely they will share powertrains. This means we can expect a 1.5-liter EcoBoost 3-cylinder that produces 182 hp and 240 Nm. There should also be a more powerful 2.0-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder with 253 hp and 372 Nm. Ford has already confirmed they’re going “all-in on hybrids”, so the Baby Bronco will likely be offered with the hybridized 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that produces an estimated 201 hp. It remains unclear if the plug-in hybrid powertrain will carryover, but that seems unlikely as it is only available with front-wheel drive. While the platform and engines may carryover, the Baby Bronco will have a unique attitude and a boxy design. Previous spy photos have shown the crossover will also have circular headlights and a contrasting roof. We can also expect a more off-road focused suspension and meatier tires. Ford hasn’t said when the Baby Bronco will be launched, but previous reports have indicated the model will arrive in mid-2020. +++ 

+++ With more and more manufacturers ditching their big V12 engines in favor of more efficient powertrains, you would think that the days of the flagship 7-Series are numbered but apparently you are wrong. BMW is keeping the big V12-engined M760Li alive, for at least 4 more years according to Michael Bayer, head of powertrain for the current model. “We will keep the V12 for the rest of this generation at least, until 2023”, Bayer said during the launch of the redesigned 7-Series. And while this might be the final swansong of the V12 engine, Bayer added that there’s a possibility to also make the big twin-turbo 6.0-liter unit comply with the next round of emissions after 2023, although that would be “extremely difficult”. BMW’s commitment on the V12 engine sounds a little bit of a lost cause at first, until you find out that demand for the range-topping M760Li has been through the roof, thanks to customers from the Middle East and China. In fact BMW was surprised of how many customers placed an order for the range-topper, because the 6.0-liter engine comes with huge tax penalties in countries like China. Apparently Chinese customers who have the means to buy a brand-new 7-Series prefer to pay supercar money for the M760Li rather than settling for one of the lesser versions. “Since we revealed this car, we have been at maximum capacity building these engines”, said 7-Series product chief Christian Metzger. However, the renosed M760Li will no longer be the most powerful BMW in the range, mostly thanks to the new particulate filters required for the latest emissions rules. With those in place, the engine now makes 585 hp instead of the 610 hp it did before. +++ 

+++ Daimler boss Dieter Zetsche went on the record as saying that the investigation into BOEING ’s 737 Max aircraft is indicative of how hard it would be for the public to accept self-driving car technology in case of a major incident. Regulators were forced to ground the 737 Max pending an investigation into whether it was Boeing’s software-based automated flight control system that caused 2 deadly crashes in the span of 5 months. According to Zetsche, this reflects poorly on autonomous cars. “What is very important is the psychological dimension. If you look at what is happening with Boeing then you can imagine what happens when such a system has an accident”, he said with regards to the car industry’s continuous efforts to develop fully autonomous vehicles. He then added that the industry should launch these systems in stages, as a way to build acceptance in the eyes of the public. “Even if autonomous cars are 10 times safer than those driven by humans, it takes one spectacular incident to make it much harder to win widespread acceptance”. Speaking of acceptance, a recent survey conducted by the American Automobile Association (AAA), revealed that 71 % of people questioned (1,008 interviews) are afraid to ride in fully autonomous vehicles. While this type of general feeling might change, it definitely won’t happen over night, so until then, interacting with semi-autonomous tech might actually be the best way to gain full acceptance. +++

+++ No automaker can afford to ignore a market with huge potential like India, where the current ownership rate is only 40 cars per 1,000 inhabitants. The country of more than 1.3 billion people could become the second China for carmakers which is why most of them are developing strategies to tap into this potential gold mine. At the moment, India is particularly attractive for companies that build affordable cars and CITROEN is one of them. The brand was assigned the role of covering the lower end of the market for PSA Group so it should come as no surprise that Citroën is now entering the Indian market; the only surprise is it took the French marque so long to do it. Citroën today made official its arrival in India during a press conference in the south Indian city of Chennai attended by PSA Group Chairman Carlos Tavares and Citroën brand CEO Linda Jackson. The company sees the move as a major step in its internationalization strategy and says it will introduce “a range of new models with an international scope in this market”. The first of those new vehicles will be launched by the end of 2021. The first Citroën model to arrive in India, however, will be the new C5 Aircross SUV, scheduled to go on sale from 2020 on the subcontinent. Citroën says it will use the same formulas that proved succesful in Europe, including a strong and differentiating product offering focused on design and comfort, “unrivaled customer experience in the automobile industry”, and price positioning at the heart of the market in India. The latter will be made possible by the high level of local integration (over 90 %) based on the 2 joint venture agreements between the PSA Group and CK Birla Group for car assembly and distribution, as well as the production of powertrains. These joint ventures will also help Citroën launch its new range of models that will first launch in India by the end of 2021 and later on in other markets. There aren’t many details about these new Indian-built models but the carmaker said it would launch them at a rate of one per year. The program is called ‘C Cubed’ as it is defined by 3 Cs: Cool (referring to the design), Comfort (well-being on board and ease of use for all occupants), and Clever (intelligent conception and high-level of local integration to meet the core of the market’s needs). +++

+++ DAIMLER and BMW are looking to limit their planned cooperation to jointly produce an affordable electric car in China. Last month, news reports said that BMW and Daimler are in talks to cooperate in developing vehicle platforms for electric cars in a step that could save each carmaker at least €7 billion. Both companies have acknowledged cooperation talks, which include sharing engineering costs for driverless cars, but BMW and Daimler have repeatedly declined to comment on whether their cooperation could include entire vehicle platforms. Daimler and BMW are now planning a joint electric car in the price range between €27,500 and €32,500, a price segment that offers the opportunity to open up a mass market for electric cars. It is still unclear whether the project will actually be carried out and the 2 companies will launch a joint venture and share the capacity of a new plant in China, which could produce 1 million electric cars over a period of 7 years. The plan has been met with criticism from some managers at BMW and Daimler, both of which also have cooperation plans with local Chinese partners. BMW is concerned that its brand could be diluted by a deal with Daimler. +++ 

+++ Some ENVIRONMENTALLY FOCUSED INVESTORS are not ready to buy into Lyft or Uber Technologies, worried about the climate impact of this year’s 2 most closely watched initial public offerings. Both companies hope to push people away from car ownership and promote shared and sustainable transportation services, among their many ambitions that have already reshaped traffic in major U.S. cities. Lyft began trading on Friday and its larger rival Uber will kick off its IPO this month, though neither has shown itself to be profitable and shares of Lyft sank below their initial price of $72 on Monday. Academics and city planners are still studying whether the companies will help reduce carbon emissions by making better use of existing vehicle fleets, or increase them by clogging traffic and diverting riders from trains and buses. But even as the companies argue congestion has many causes including growing city populations, some investors cite early indications that ride-hailing technology puts more, not fewer, cars on the road. “As far as I can tell, they’re actually putting more cars into the congested areas, and they’re pulling business out of the transit systems”, said Murray Rosenblith, portfolio manager of the New Alternatives Fund, which aims to make socially responsible investments. “This is not an area where New Alternatives is going to get engaged”, Rosenblith said. Joshua Brockwell, a director at Azzad Asset Management, which also factors environmental issues into investment decisions, said both companies also face the issue of drivers “deadheading”, or driving around in between fares. While both also aim to reduce private car ownership, he said, “that’s a not an eco-friendly goal in and of itself. It’s overall ‘miles traveled’ and carbon emissions that count”. Representatives for several other well-known climate-focused investors said they do not buy IPOs or were not ready to weigh in on ride-hailing, including Green Century Funds, Boston Common Asset Management and Parnassus Investments. Research shows mixed results. A 2017 University of California at Davis study found ride-hailing boosted use of commuter rail but pulled people away from buses and light rail. In addition people often used the apps to take trips they previously made by walking, biking, taking public transit or not taking at all. A study by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority found that about half of new congestion in San Francisco from 2010 to 2016 was from ride-hailing. Average speeds in the city stood at 20.9 miles per hour at the end of the period, researchers found, 3.1 miles per hour slower than at the start. Drivers for Lyft and Uber often travel far to reach urban areas before they even turn on the app. It is common for drivers from California’s Central Valley to drive close to 100 miles (160 km) to San Francisco in search of more lucrative fares. Lyft executives including Chief Policy Officer Anthony Foxx said that the company has taken other steps to combat congestion such as showing bus arrival times on its smartphone app and investing in bicycles and scooters. Lyft also says it spent millions of dollars on carbon offsets in 2018, and supports transit infrastructure. “We are on a long path. We didn’t get to this level of congestion in our cities overnight”, Foxx said in an interview. Uber did not make executives available to comment, but the company has made its own commitments to bikes, scooters and other sustainability initiatives. Its CEO Dara Khosrowshahi in September promised $10 million to study ideas such as congestion pricing to speed traffic. One opportunity is that Uber and Lyft could help drivers buy more expensive electric cars, which have a lower cost per mile. Accelerating the shift to electric could win over Seb Beloe, head of research at WHEB Asset Management in London, another investor focused on sustainability, he said via email. But he avoided the Lyft IPO and worries the service and Uber will diminish public transit. As things stand, “we think that the case is not yet compelling” for the companies, Beloe said. +++ 

+++ Exor, the holding company of the Agnelli family, remains committed to FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES (FCA), chairman John Elkann said, in comments that may dampen speculation the Italian carmaker could be the target of a takeover. “Our permanence in the capital of FCA has given its successive leadership teams the latitude to plan for the long term rather than having to react to daily pressures”, John Elkann, who is also Fiat Chrysler chairman, said in a letter to Exor shareholders. “This approach and mindset remain as relevant to us today as ever and our commitment to FCA and to participating in its bold and profitable future is also unchanged”. Exor, Fiat’s biggest shareholder with a stake of 29 %, has been diversifying its asset base in recent years after buying U.S. reinsurer PartnerRe in 2015. Media reports last month said Renault wanted to restart merger talks with Nissan within 12 months, after which it could be eyeing a bid for Fiat. The president of Peugeot family holding company FFP said he would support a new deal and suggested Fiat Chrysler was among the options. Elkann said the next 20 years in the car industry were set to witness a great level of change and suggested the Agnelli family, the founders of Fiat, would not passively stand by. “We are determined that we and Fiat Chrysler will play our part actively and ambitiously in this new and exciting era”, he said in the letter. After the death of former CEO Sergio Marchionne last year, speculation about the future of Fiat Chrysler has intensified. Marchionne, who had created the group by merging a troubled Fiat with Chrysler of the U.S., had advocated industry mergers to share the cost of building electric and self-driving cars. Carmakers around the world are looking to tie-ups to cope with rising competition, the rise of electrification and the threat of a trade war between the United States and China. +++

+++ Following yesterday’s announcement of new products for Europe, FORD is now revealing its latest plans for China. Under its ‘330’ product plan, the company aims to launch more than 30 new Ford and Lincoln vehicles in the country in the next 3 years, more than 10 of which will be electrified. The first in the long list of new models is the all-new Kuga, which in China gets a unique front end designed specifically for the world’s largest car market. The Chinese-spec Kuga features a bigger grille that widens toward the bottom and blends into the headlamps for what Ford calls “a sleek and majestic look”. Also different from the model sold in Europe is the ‘Nebula Shield’ hexagonal grille mesh with a chrome finish and black highlights. “After considerable research, we found that Chinese consumers favor ‘subtle and dynamic’ aesthetics: they prefer designs that are understated yet powerful”, explained Ford’s vice president of Global Design, Moray Callum. The automaker says the new Kuga’s distinct front styling reflects “the aesthetic preferences and particular needs of young urban Chinese” and demonstrates the company’s ambitions to launch more products with customer-centric design in China. Besides the new Kuga, Ford product offensive will include many products designed specifically for the Chinese market. To accomplish that, the automaker is setting up a China Innovation Center and a China Design Center to complement the existing Nanjing Research and Engineering Center and Nanjing Test Center. The locally-developed products and advanced technologies will also be shared with the global Ford team, while the China team is also leading the design and development of a global model. Additionally, the Blue Oval’s local joint-venture partners Changan and Jiangling Motors will be involved in the development of future products. Changan Ford will design and develop the next-generation Escort, while Ford and Jiangling are developing the Territory Electric that will launch later this year and will be Ford’s first all-electric model in China. As for the Lincoln brand, the new Aviator will debut later this year, followed by an all-new SUV scheduled to enter production before the end of the year (likely the Corsair). +++ 

+++ GENERAL MOTORS reported a 7 % fall in U.S. new vehicle sales for the first quarter, hit by declines in passenger car sales. The No. 1 U.S. automaker said it sold 665,840 vehicles in the first quarter, compared with 715,794, a year earlier. American consumers have been abandoning traditional passenger cars in favor of more comfortable SUVs, although demand in recent quarters has also been weak for the more popular larger vehicles. Sales of high-margin vehicles like Chevrolet Silverado pickup trucks and Chevrolet Suburban SUV fell during the quarter. +++

+++ Japanese authorities have arrested former Nissan, Renault, and Mitsubishi boss Carlos GHOSN for the 4th time since November 2018. He faces new charges related the original allegations of financial misconduct that landed him in a Japanese jail cell for months. The former executive hasn’t gone on trial yet. NHK, Japan’s public broadcaster, reported Ghosn was arrested on new suspicions of aggravated breach of trust. He allegedly funneled money from bank accounts linked to Nissan to a dealership in Oman operated by an acquaintance. Some of the money was sent to a Lebanon-registered company via the bank account of one of the dealership’s executives. It was used to purchase Ghosn’s yacht, anonymous sources told NHK, and some of it ended up in the hands of an investment firm run by Ghosn’s son. All told, Nissan lost $5 million between 2015 and 2018. Lawyers representing Ghosn claim the payments made to the dealership in Oman were legal, transparent, and made at the request of Nissan executives. They added Ghosn purchased the yacht without Nissan’s involvement. Ghosn was finally allowed to post bail less than a month ago after spending 108 days in a Tokyo detention center. It’s unclear whether he was again taken in custody after his fourth arrest, according to NHK. He reportedly denies the charges against him. He announced plans to hold a press conference on April 11 to tell the world his side of this on-going saga, which he claims is a carefully-organized coup. Whether he’ll be able to speak as planned is unclear at this point. +++ 

+++ Corroborating previous rumors, Ford is reportedly planning to build the next-generation MUSTANG on the same platform that underpins the latest Explorer. Known as CD6, the 2020 Explorer’s platform is a rear-wheel-drive architecture with a longitudinal-engine configuration. Executives have previously indicated all of Ford’s RWD/AWD nameplates will eventually be based on the CD6 platform. The next-generation Mustang will make the switch to CD6, requiring the pony car to be scaled up to roughly the same footprint as the Dodge Challenger. Conflicting sources claim the new Mustang will not arrive until sometime between 2026 and 2029. In the meantime, the current Mustang is expected to receive a significant mid-cycle update and a hybrid variant for 2022. +++ 

+++ Later this year, Ford will unveil its long-awaited, Mustang-inspired all-electric crossover. Details about the vehicle have been trickling out over recent months alongside a handful of teasers, and now it’s emerged the vehicle could be dubbed the ‘ MUSTANG MACH-E ’. A quick search through the European Union Intellectual Property Office reveals that on the 1st of April 2019, Ford filed an application to trademark the ‘Mustang Mach-E’ name for use on “motor land vehicles (excluding scooters); parts, fittings and accessories for motor land vehicles (excluding scooters).” The Dearborn car manufacturer has previously filed a trademark application for the name ‘Mach-E’ with the European Union Intellectual Property Office, only now it has added “Mustang” to the moniker. The Mustang Mach-E designation pays tribute to the original Mustang Mach 1, but obviously references the vehicle’s all-electric powertrain. However, we don’t know if it will indeed be used on the production vehicle or just a concept. What we do know for sure about Ford’s electric crossover is that it “is going to go like hell,” at least according to executive chairman Bill Ford. A previously released teaser showcased a rear fascia with obvious styling traits similar to the Mustang, including the aggressive taillights. Ford has also offered the world a glimpse of the vehicle’s front end, which features a bright blue Mustang badge. Details about the vehicle’s powertrain, including the size of its battery pack and how many electric motors it will have, are still unknown, apart from the fact that, according to Ford, the electric crossover will have a range of 600 km. +++

+++ A few weeks ago in Geneva, Audi revealed no fewer than four new plug-in hybrid models in the A6L 55 TFSIe Quattro, A7 55 TFSIe Quattro, A8L 60 TFSIe Quattro and the Q5 55 TFSIe Quattro. All of them utilize a 14.1 kWh battery and have all-electric ranges of 40 km. Missing from that group was an electrified variant of the automaker’s flagship crossover, the Q8 PHEV . However, just because it didn’t show up in Geneva doesn’t mean that it’s not currently in development. Styling-wise, the Q8 PHEV should look the same as its petrol and diesel-powered siblings. As for what type of badge it will end up wearing on its tailgate, it could very well end up being either the ’55 TFSIe Quattro’ badge, or the ’60 TFSIe Quattro’ one. The former offers 370 hp and 500 Nm of torque in the A6L, A7 and Q5 plug-in hybrids, whereas the latter uses a more powerful 3.0-liter V6, paired with a synchronous electric motor, giving the A8L a peak output of 450 hp and 700 Nm. I also expect the Q8 PHEV to gain 3 hybrid driving modes in EV, Auto and Hold. EV mode will run the vehicle on electric power alone, while Auto mode uses both the electric motor and the combustion engine for maximum efficiency. Hold mode on the other hand is aimed at maintaining the charge status of the battery. As for when we’ll get to see an official unveiling for the Q8 PHEV, best case scenario would be later this year, along with a 2020MY moniker. +++

+++ RENAULT will renew its fight with the recently-launched Ford Focus later this year by revealing a facelifted version of the Mégane, with a hybrid option due as part of the updates. The family hatchback and estate range has been on sale since 2016, and a mid-life makeover is imminent as a follow-up to the Kadjar facelift late last year. Expect to see the new Megane at September’s Frankfurt motor show before it arrives at dealerships in early 2020. Like the mechanically-related Kadjar, expect a subtle design evolution for the updated Megane. The front end bears the most disguise, suggesting alterations to the grille, headlights and bumper. At the rear, a reshaped tailgate and LED lighting profile will help to foster the familiar resemblance with the new Clio. Something else shared with the Clio, and a first for the Mégane in any guise, will be a new hybridised variant. Launching in 2020, it will form a crucial part of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance’s Drive the Future plan, which is targeting 20 electrified Renaults to hit the market by 2022. A spokesperson wouldn’t be drawn on specifics, but the Mégane is likely to adopt a similar petrol-electric system to the Clio. Dubbed E-tech, it makes use of an 90 hp petrol engine in the smaller car, mated to a 40 hp electric motor and a 1.2kWh battery alongside regenerative braking tech. Rental claims it allows the Clio to “drive like an EV” and be 70% electrically powered in town. Expect a larger combustion engine for the Mégane, however. Also possible is a full plug-in hybrid version with a larger battery, similar to that due to be launched on the next Captur. That should allow an electric-only range of 40-50 kilometres, though as more governments reduce list price incentives for low-range plug-ins across Europe it’s not clear which type of hybrid is a priority. The hybrid will sit alongside a familiar range of petrol and diesel engines, including the new 1.0 and 1.3-litre turbocharged units found in everything from the new Clio to (in 1.3-litre form) the Mercedes A-Class. Alongside the powertrain additions, expect a slicker interior with higher-grade materials, improved infotainment and new digital dials, alongside an improved suite of driver assist features. +++

+++ A new study from iSeeCars has revealed which vehicles Americans RESELLwithin first year of ownership. As part of the study, the company examined more than 46 million new vehicle sales to determine which vehicles which resold the most often. To eliminate flippers and other anomalies, the company looked at vehicles which logged at least a 1,000 miles (1,609 km) between sales. The results are somewhat surprising as the top 4 resold vehicles were all from luxury automakers. They include the Mercedes C-Class, BMW 3-Series, Land Rover Discovery Sport and Range Rover Evoque. While only 3.4% of all new cars are resold within the first year of ownership, all four of these models had resell rates of 10.9% or more. Continuing down the list, there’s the Mini Clubman, BMW X1 and BMW X3. Rounding out the top ten are the Nissan Versa Note, Jaguar XF and Nissan Versa sedan. The top 10 list includes seven different luxury vehicles and it’s not entirely clear why. iSeeCars CEO Phong Ly suggested a number of possibilities including everything from high operating costs to below-average reliability ratings. He also mentioned the possibility that dealers bought the vehicles to use as loaners (using manufacture incentives) and then resold them within the first year. However, the company tried to account for this by excluding vehicles without a 1,000 miles (1,609 km) between sales. There are other possibilities and one of the simplest explanations could be that people didn’t fully understand how much money it costs to own a luxury vehicle. The average new car loan soared to a record of $31,455 last summer and this pushed the average monthly loan payment to a record of $523. That’s not exactly pocket change and when you add on insurance and other costs, it means some people might not have been able to afford the vehicle they just purchased. Regardless of the cause, luxury brands also dominated the list of brands which were most likely to be given up within the first year of ownership. The top five spots went to BMW, Porsche, Mercedes, Land Rover and Jaguar. On the sports car side, owners bailed on the aging Nissan 370Z as 7.8% of them were resold within the first year. The model was followed by the Porsche 911 and Chevrolet Corvette. +++

+++ Ford, General Motors and Toyota and have joined forces with SAE International to form the Automated Vehicle Safety Consortium. Designed to “safely advance testing, pre-competitive development and deployment of SAE Level 4 and 5 automated vehicles”, the consortium aims to develop STANDARDS for autonomous vehicles. This is important as most companies have been going it alone and the creation of standards could pave the way for faster regulatory approval of autonomous vehicles. This won’t happen overnight and the consortium acknowledged this by saying their first step will be creating a roadmap of priorities. The group says this will include a set of safety principles for Level 4 and Level 5 vehicles with a focus on testing, interactions with other road users and “data collection, protection and sharing required to reconstruct certain events.” While the consortium is largely focused on standards and safety, they’re also trying to improve public acceptance and confidence in autonomous vehicles. This could be an uphill battle as a recent study found 71 percent of people would be afraid to ride in a fully autonomous vehicle. In a statement, Ford Autonomous Vehicles’ chief technology officer Randy Visintainer said “Our goal with the consortium is to work with industry and government partners to expedite development of standards that can lead to rule making”. His sentiments were echoed by the executive vice president of the Toyota Research Institute, Kelly Kay, who said “The formation of this consortium creates a forum to collaborate and cooperate with various stakeholders who will play important roles in forming and synthesizing the automated vehicle eco-system of tomorrow”. Likewise, GM’s John Capp said they’re eager to work with the consortium so “we can realize the true benefits of this technology and work toward a future with zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion”. +++

+++ Thanks to the recently launched Model 3 sedan, TESLA is now nipping at the heels of Porsche in the sports car maker’s home market. According to the Federal Motor Transport Authority, Tesla is just 356 vehicles behind Porsche in German sales after registering 3,596 deliveries during the first 3 months of the year. The bulk of those sales came in March, when Tesla sold 2,367 vehicles in Germany. That spike in sales is largely due to the arrival of the Model 3, which is Tesla’s least expensive vehicle. Despite being on sale in the United States for quite some time, the Model 3 only arrived in German in February, with March representing the line’s first fully stocked month on the market. Tesla also sells the Model S and Model X in German. Tesla could overtake Porsche in German sales as soon as this month. While Tesla is surging, Porsche’s sales slumped by nearly 10 % in March due to model changeovers and the elimination of some diesel models. However, Porsche is planning to launch its all-electric Taycan sedan later this year, which promises to give Tesla a run for its money. +++

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